BEST CLIENT QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
"My dog ate my plot skeleton."
Hey, Writerly Women! When I pose that question, I'm not asking about the ACTUAL people you binge watch re-runs of Gilmore Girls with. We're not referring to your Tribe -- your peeps -- your besties. (If any or all of those terms are completely passe', please don't tell me).
I'm talking about your audience, the people you're writing for. And here's why I'm asking.
I used to write almost totally for girls 8 to 12, so I was often invited to teach workshops at writer's conferences on how to build stories for kids that age. Loved it and met some amazingly talented writers. But there was always at least one aspiring author who, when I asked the group question, how much time do you spend with kids, looked at me as if I had asked, "How often do you deliberately eat E. coli-infested food?"
That never failed to baffle me. A.A. Milne and C.S. Lewis notwithstanding (both claimed to have very little to do with children), it's fairly impossible to write successfully for kids when you don't LIKE them -- and it IS impossible if you never spend any time with them.
That kid between 9-13 who many won’t notice or give a nickel for, but is off-the-charts notable and worth a million bucks. He’s ever more aware of himself, yet at the same time, the world around him begins to make a huge impact on his value system and conduct. He has a sense of what’s right, but might not be totally sure what that is or how to make it happen should he discover it. He’s extraordinary and has untapped potential, but is clueless of that truth.
How does Colleen know this stuff? She worked with kids this age until VERY recently. She now has grandsons and actually plays with them. No head-patting and cheek-pinching for this lady. Totally out of the blue the other day she emailed me and said, "I love fifth grade boys." Beyond the fact that someone should check her for dementia, that's why her books are going to rock and they're going to sell.
Obviously this concept doesn't apply just to writing for middle graders.
If your audience is YA, are you hanging with teenagers -- or do you break into a sweat at the thought of all those hormones?
If you're into the New Adult scene, are you spending some time in coffee shops with the generation who is angry about the current state of affairs that's left them jobless after four years of college -- or are you writing about the way you think things should be for them?
If your target is that fantasy lover, are you in the world of fairy, elf and wizard lovers -- or just tucked away in your own world?
Basically: YA GOTTA GET SOME OF IT ON YA.
If we don't do that, here's what happens:
* Our writing sounds condescending and patronizing, especially when we bring in the mentor, the pastor or the wise father who straightens that character out.
* It never comes across as authentic.
* We miss some really great opportunities for plot twists and conflicts.
* The audience we're writing for gets about a chapter in, if that far, gives that derisive smirk, and thinks -- or, the good Lord forbid -- says out loud -- or, worse -- writes in an Amazon review, "This writer is completely out of touch with the people she's writing about."
I have to confess that I'm actually right there at this point. The women I typically spend time with are wise, God-centered and in touch with their true selves or they're living into that daily. (Women like you.) The woman I'm writing for?
While she is intelligent, gifted and successful, she has little sense of the Divine. Perhaps she’s had no religious upbringing at all, or what she’s had was lackluster. Or Jesus was crammed down her throat so that she ran from all things Christian at the earliest opportunity. She may even have had an abusive experience of some kind in the Church. She didn’t even have to be Christian growing up. She may have been Jewish or Muslim or Native American and had one of those four kinds of backgrounds. In any case, she was in no way reaching out to God. God is there, waiting, whispering. She may have heard without knowing and made some good moves in her life. Maybe she does have a decent relationship with someone and feels she’s a good mother. It could be she’s influenced her community in positive ways. Ah, but there could be so much more, and somehow she knows it.
(Disclaimer: I chose this photo at random from the internet. I have no idea if this profile fits her. She just looks like one of my characters) Do I have any women in my life like that at this juncture? Do we meet for coffee? Text each other? Reach out when we're in crisis? Um ... no.
If the four books I'm writing are going to be real, I need to get out more. Find out what her life looks like, rather than assume I know.
And that, my Writerly Women, is what we all need to do.
If you want make a quick comment today, will you tell us if you hang with your audience? And if not, do you have any ideas for how you can? I'm not even sure I know yet. I just know I want to honor ALL my sisters.